Permission To Play? Who's Your Daddy?




Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. (2) Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." (3) So He told them this parable, saying, ... "A man had two sons. (12) "The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. (13) "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. (14) "Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. (15) "So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. (16) "And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. (17) "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! (18) 'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; (19) I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' (20) "So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (21) "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' (22) "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; (23) and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; (24) for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate. (25) "Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. (26) "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. (27) "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' (28) "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. (29) "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; (30) but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.' (31) "And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. (32) 'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'Luke 15:1-3/Luke 15:11-32 NASB


Tell me about your family? Every counseling session comes to that question. What would that be like for Darth Vader to sit down with Luke and Leia from Star Wars? How about Vito Corleone of The Godfather Family sitting down with Sonny, Fredo and Michael or Tony Soprano for that matter? Or how about the McCallisters of Home Alone who make it a habit of leaving their children alone in the house, not once but 3 times, to fend off criminals while they fly all around the world on vacations. Somebody needs to call child services!

I bring this all up regarding family because if there is a dominate metaphor that runs throughout the whole Bible, it is about family. Traditionally, this parable of Jesus is termed “The Prodigal Son.” But I'd like you to consider for a moment that it isn't the son who is the prodigal in this story. No, in a childish world, it is the father who is truly acting like a prodigal. Or as was intended, it is God who is acting as a prodigal.

It is a father with two sons who appear quite different...
The younger son asks his father to give him his portion of the inheritance due him. According to the Law of Moses, the eldest son received a double portion - cf. Deut 21:17. Since there were two sons, the younger son would receive one-third. If there were other sons all would split the one-third. Now prepared – the younger son heads out into the world and makes a mess of the time and the money.

The older son is the epitome of responsibility. In his own words he describes how for many years he had served his father – in essence, he has been running the family business, doing all that was necessary to maintain the family reputation. He had never transgressed his father's will. It is so easy to sympathize with the elder son isn't it?

But this is precisely the problem Timothy Keller points out in his book, The Prodigal God, regarding our childish world. You see, each son cared more for the father's stuff or in their minds – their 'stuff,' than they did about enjoying and loving their dad for who he was. I remember as a kid when I had some vague idea or dream of being a golfing superstar. I can even recall asking my dad if I could have his golf clubs when he died? Of course my dad was smarter – he said he would put it in his will to be buried with them. It's okay for a 6 year old but not an adult.

Keller points out a startling revelation: we can get into trouble in this life by being both really bad and on the other side, by being extremely good. It is a childish world after all.

But the problem is the Father – he doesn't condemn the runaway in his recklessness nor does he chastise the self-righteous in his arrogance. Have you ever watched kids when they know the pain of another? You can tell, because rather than ridicule and point fingers, which would be childish,and the way of the world, they set down beside the hurting one and put an arm on their shoulder. They say things like, “I'm sorry” or “can I help?” or they don't say anything at all.

And so, in the midst of this all, stands a father, the true prodigal of the story. Each story of the interaction leaves us wondering in regard to this father. With the first son, you wonder, “what was going through the boy's mind?!?!” With the older, we sit on the edge of the seat wanting to turn the page and find out what the older boy decides.

No parent, not even God the Father, can control the behaviors of children. And would we want that to happen? Do we not know, that it is in adversity and facing consequences, that we learn the most? In a childish world, childlike faith and actions will always be the way of the prodigal and so it is the followers of Jesus Christ, whose Father is a prodigal God, who are destined to be outcasts.

Jesus' message was to the tax collectors and prostitutes in the midst of sinning and to Pharisees and arrogant religious people in their self-righteousness. Our heavenly Father loves his children. The children of God need to see the way to receive the erring child who returns to the Father – even if that erring child is the one in the mirror.

Will you hold to a God out there, demanding what things of you that you can never accomplish or will you come back to a prodigal Daddy who invites all in to the party? In a childish world, the question for you is who is your daddy?

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